Adventures in China: Day 29

Day 29: Bessie and Yosef That’s what we named our horses. When we were riding them. In Mongolia. !!! Let me back up …   Phil woke up still feeling crappy, but was a trooper and did not want to miss out on this day trip to the Grasslands of Mongolia. Benny had helped him get some Chinese medicine at the pharmacy.

It was terrible.



Anyway, we had a tour bus for the day to take us there and back. It was about an hour ride there.


We knew we were getting close when we started to see, well, a lot of grass. And yurts.


As we were getting off the bus we were greeted with a traditional custom.

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And here we are on the grasslands of Mongolia. It was stunning. And very cold and windy!


Some people decided to go for a ride on an ATV.


And a bunch of others, including us, decided to see the grasslands by horse. Best. Decision. Ever. First we had to buy a scarf for Phil because it was so windy.


Then I hopped on my cow-horse.

I named her Bessie. I liked Bessie. She was feisty and liked to do her own thing. We became great friends.

Phil hopped on his horse.

Phil named him Yosef. Yosef was best buds with Abby’s horse, Emma.

Awwwww. We got to ride for at least two hours. It was so cool. And beautiful. There were no other tour groups around us, so it felt like we were the only ones out there. The scenery was amazing!


About halfway through the ride we stopped at a yurt for milk tea.

(He thought I was trying to take a picture of him lolz)

So Mongolian milk tea is well, milk (powder) and some type of tea, but it’s also salty/buttery. You add in various things like millet, cookies, crackers, milk tablets or even small pastries. Then you drink the tea and eat the goodies at the end, which have soaked up the tea. Yummmmm.


We finished our ride back where we started, and then went inside the restaurant yurt for some food.

They also had insanely loud karaoke going on while we ate, so that was a bit much. However, one guy decided to dedicate a song to our group. He was singing with that technique called “overtone singing” or “throat singing”. Neat!

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After that it was time to head back. We still had a show to do that night!

Adventures in China: Day 28

Day 28: The Tale of Two Cultures


We ate breakfast, and Phil went to the theater. I joined a group going to this area of town that was supposedly Arabic. We weren’t sure what that meant or what we would find. I just now googled it and all I could find was that it was the “Arabic Fashion Center”. It was definitely a shopping area. The architecture was so neat. It was Arabic (well, it was more of the stereotype architecture) meets Mongolian.

See what I mean? A mosque-type structure next to a Pagoda. But it was beautiful, nonetheless. Especially with the blue skies!


We found a place to make a wish. Or more like three.


We also found some street-side pastries that were unique to this area. Yummmmm. So cheap, too. 2 yuan. That’s like 36 cents. So awesome.

(Aren’t those ladies beautiful?)

(Isn’t this old man adorable?)


We continued simply walking down the street. There were just so many lovely sights!


We were told some parts might be a little “Las Vegas” ish. You decide.



Regardless, I loved the architecture of so many buildings. It had a very quaint, old world feeling about it.


Then we found this cool bridge.


And along the way there we also found puppies!

I wanted to just put this little guy in my pocket and take him home with me. Good thing he wasn’t a kitten, otherwise I really would have!


I went back to the hotel in order to walk down to this shopping place everyone was talking about. It actually was very cool inside, had some interesting things, would bargain with you, and was pretty cheap.

The entrance:


The inside:


It was fun. Good practice for the Silk Market! I spent about an hour there, and then walked back. It was about a half hour walk (so much walking on this trip!) with pretty sights along the way.


Call was at 4:45, so I got to see Phil and tell him about my day.


Here are shots of the theater. This one was quite large.


The outside:


The inside:


We called it an early night because Phil was sick, and we had a fun day trip for tomorrow to the Grasslands! So excited about this one.

Adventures in China: Day 27

Day 27: A Travel Day From Hell

I left off the previous post with us assumedly going to bed. Well, taking a nap was more accurate. We had to be back on the bus by 2am. Phil was sick with the crud that was going around. We probably got a good hour and a half in O.o We had to drive 3 hours back to Qingdoa because there was no airport in Yantie. It was like this with Chongqing to Yichun to Chonqing. Sucks. Our flight was at 8 or something, so that why it was so early.

We start by a freezing bus ride. The driver had the pop ups in the ceiling open and it had to of been no warmer than 60 degrees on that bus, and remember it was dark and humid outside. We. Were. So. Cold.

Finally, we realized what the problem was and had the windows shut. Much better. We were at the airport by 5am or so, fully checked in and waiting to board by 6:30. It takes a long time to check in 45 people, fyi. We all just pass out wherever we can find.

And then board our couple-hour flight!

We all look so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

We were flying to the capital of Inner Mongolia – H?héhàotè, or Hohhot. We were quite excited about going to (Inner) Mongolia. It’s a part of Mongolia that’s China. That’s all I can make sense of it. The scenery as we were landing was quite different!

The airport had some funny Chinglish signs. Warning: the first one you will either be offended by, puzzled by or highly amused by. Don’t shoot the photographer (haha, I just made a pun!)

(you gotta look close for this next one)


We check into our hotel, and it’s a super nice one again. Yay!

Pretty nice lobby, huh?

We go up to our room with the primary objective of passing out. We basically have not slept in a couple of days. Exhaustion is setting in. Thankfully, we were greeted by a heavenly bed.

Yes, that is the toilet you can see through that glass window that is actually the shower. There was a curtain you could pull down if you wanted.

Here’s our view:

We took a glorious nap, and then headed down to dinner. It was buffet style, but also with a sushi chef, a hot pot chef, and a Mongolian milk tea bar. Also, desserts, ice cream, sodas, and so much more.

After dinner we were up for a little exploring, so we set out walking.


Ok, this next pic is of a little girl in a remote control car being driven by her dad. It was so hilarious.


Then we took a cab to the address someone had given us of a street market that comes out at night. It was an adventure getting there, as always. The cab drivers seem to just have a relative idea of where anything is, and just drop you off somewhere close. But we found it, and lots of fun things. (“We” = Lena too!)

A fun music store:


Street-side pool tables:


Delicious street food:


Topped off with beer I could walk around with:


A red lantern walkway, provided by the University:


Funny tags on clothes:


After we had seen enough, we were ready to go back to the hotel and hit the hay. But when we got back, Benny, June and Ellie were heading out for a massage. I was exhausted, but the knots in my neck and shoulders were screaming at me from the past few days of travel. So I went.

I ended up getting a scraping technique called “Gua Sha”. Gua sha (Chinese: ??; pinyingua sha), literally “to scrape away fever” in Chinese (more loosely, “to scrape away disease by allowing the disease to escape as sandy-looking objects through the skin”), is a form of folk medicine (via wikipedia). It leaves some serious marks, and looks horrible. Like I got whipped. BUT my back felt GREAT the next day, and it didn’t really hurt to get it done. Everyone has a different pain tolerance level, so that’s a subjective statement. It was a fun experience, and even more fun to see the horrified looks on peoples’ faces when I showed them my marks. You ready? I’ll show you, but you’ve gotta believe me that first of all, I gave permission for this. They didn’t just do it without asking. Two, it looks terrible, yes, but seriously all the tension and knots in my back and shoulders was gone by next day. Third, yes it was a bit tender the next day. Four, the marks were completely gone within 3 days. You ready?



You sure? Don’t look if you’re not.




See? Not so bad. Hey, it’s all part of the Adventures in China! If you know anything about me, it’s that I’m an adventurous person. What you are seeing is simply blood vessels right under the skin. That’s all.

After that it was off to bed! And I slept great.

Adventures in China: Day 25

Day 25: A Little Jaunt to Yantie

Yantie was our next destination (yen tie). We got on the bus at 9am for a 3 hour drive. It was very sad to leave this beautiful place :( We arrive at our odd hotel around noon.


We ate, and then I wandered around by myself for a few hours. I stumbled across this little Chinese antique shop in this back alley.


I looked around, but didn’t buy anything. There was sooooo much cool stuff in there. They were really nice and let me just look for a long time without getting annoyed. I went back to the hotel for a power nap. When I woke back up, I was still thinking about some old coins and a painting I had seen. So I went back, bargained and walked out with some neat old coins (for jewelry making) and scroll painting.

It was a show that same day (last time we travel/show in the same day! Yay!). It was quite gloomy outside


Took my usual round of pics inside:


Show, dinner, sleep. The end.

Adventures in China: Day 24

Day 24: More Beach, Please!

We slept in. Like really slept in. Until 10:30. It was glorious. As we were getting ready, we heard drums playing outside. I couldn’t see what was going on from my window, except that it was in front of the hotel. So I grab the camera and hurry down. Right as I grabbed the keycard out of the slot (oh, in order to get power in your room you have to put your room key in a certain slot), a ton of noise like gunshots happens. It took me a minute to figure out it was coming from outside and not a reaction to me pulling out the keycard. Lolz. I run to the window and there’s this HUGE heart on the ground made out of firecrackers. It had been set off right as I pulled my card out. Har har. So now I’m really curious. I go down, and found …


It was a wedding party arriving at the hotel! Holy cow. I was not expecting that! It was BEAUTIFUL! And crazy. And extravagant. A blowup rainbow, a personal drumline, and cannons that shot rose petals. That’s right, rose petals. Watch this video.

We had to get a cheezy pic under the rainbow that said “su happy”. No, that is not a typo on my part.


After we were ready, it was lunchtime, so we ate, then made plans with Ellie to go to the beach. We stopped for a latte at the coffee/wine shop right next to the hotel. This wasn’t the one across the street, but right next door to the hotel/theater. Well, actually a part of it, but not owned by it. Anyway.


It was also a wine shop with these amazing tasting rooms in the back.


With a latte in hand, we walk down the beach with no plans but to simply walk along the shore.


After a very relaxing time there, we decided that a glass of wine on the patio at Cheers sounded lovely.


Get excited, Serene. One of those little seashell turtles on the table is for you. The one with the pink hat, of course.

“Cheers!” at Cheers.


Phil went back to take a nap in the room, and I went back to the beach to take a nap there again. Didn’t really care about the staring this time. I woke up, went back, changed, walked over to Deja Vu. I ordered a coffee and a bagel, then sat outside and blogged via their free wifi. Then it was show, dinner, and then Phil and the tech crew left for the next city. They would drive tonight, get in at 1am or so, then get to sleep a good 7 or so hours before going to the theater. Otherwise they would have had to leave super early in the morning and go straight to the theater. Everyone is kind of wired after the show, so leaving right away was the better option for them.

I kissed him goodbye and then went … can you guess? Over to Cheers with some of the girls. They had this Australian Shiraz that just kept us coming back.

Adventures in China: Day 23

Day 23: Somewhere Beyond the Sea …

The hotel/theater setup was fantastic. Phil got to sleep in, eat breakfast and then simply walk over to the theater via a connecting hallway from the restaurant. I did some much needed laundry for a few hours after breakfast. I kind of have a system down now. Soak the clothes in the sink, then toss them into the shower to be rinsed off using the hand held attachment that is in every hotel here. Then comes my least favorite part – the wringing out. It’s so humid here that I have to use every ounce of strength to wring the clothes, then roll them in a towel and step on them. Then hang. Fun times. Especially when doing laundry for two. O.o

Lunchtime was nice because the crew at the theater got to eat with us at the hotel. Normally, they have to eat at the theater. This time, they simply walked back over. I ate, changed into my swimsuit, grabbed a towel and some art supplies, then headed to the beach.


I’m pretty used to the staring by now. But people kept stopping and looking over my shoulder as I drew, which then attracted more people, and I was feeling a little self conscious. But they moved on. Well, then I wanted to lay out (don’t worry, I had sunscreen on!). But I again felt very conspicuous because there were no other bathing suits on the beach. They don’t like to be tan here. It’s all about how white can you be. Everything has whitening cream in it. Even the sunscreen. It’s like our obsession in the US with white teeth and toothpaste. But whatever, I did it. I fell asleep to the sound of the ocean in the warm sand. Amazing.

I woke up, went back, showered, and went to the theater with everyone.


After the show was dinner, of course. We got to each so much earlier this time! Like 9:45 instead of 10:30 because we didn’t have to do a bus ride :) My eating schedule is going to be so messed up when I get back. Along with my sleep.

We promptly made plans to go right back across the street to Cheers/Deja Vu. We ran into a Canadian lady we had met the night before. She and her husband teach at an international school here, and they came to the show. We joined up at their table and around. We were quite the party.


Just wine, beautiful weather, and great conversations with great people. A perfect combo!

Adventures in China: Day 22

Day 22: Come On Ride the Train

(Reference to a good ol’ 90’s song ;))

Our train was at 10am, and not far from the hotel. So we were able to sleep in and eat breakfast. We didn’t sleep very well at this hotel though. That made for 3 nights in a row without getting rest, and we were pretty tired. We got a little Vitamin C at the train station to try and boost things a little.



All aboard!


It was another 6 hour train ride. This was an actual bullet train, though! I can’t remember how fast it went, but it was fast!


The scenery was different on this trip. We were traveling north, the most north we had been yet. It became clear, blue skies (yay!), less smog, and lots of agriculture.





We mostly read and slept. Again, it was a very comfy method of travel. I wish all of our travel was by train!


I guess I should mention our next city ;) Qingdao (ching dow). Here’s the train station:



Here’s us walking to our bus and some pics along the way. Again, the blue skies were much appreciated!



Our trip to the hotel was across a big city with lots of traffic, so about an hour. We were really confused for a minute when we arrived, because we were at the actual theater. But then we look closely and …




This theater had a hotel connected! And man, was it a nice hotel. Here’s a pic of the lobby/bar area. This pic didn’t focus right and I didn’t realize that until just now. Oops. Oh well. You can still gather what it looks like, though.




The hallways were trippy. It was like looking down a corridor of mirrors.



Our room was great. Very zen.



We were on the 18th floor. The view was beautiful. We could see the mountains!



Dinner was next on the menu (pun intended heehee). It was buffet style, and tasty. Plenty of options for us herbivores :) After dinner a group of us walked to …

… the beach. That’s right. THE BEACH!! Oh, did I not mention we were on the coast? Omg, so happy! Only a 5 minute walk, too. Could life get any better?! We had a great time. It was so relaxing and rejuvenating. We stayed until past sunset (although you couldn’t see it because of the clouds).




On our walk back we made a beeline to the places across from the hotel. Our choices were …

A German Bar/restaurant



A wine bar and next to another restaurant



There was also a convenient store, a pizza place, and a coffee shop, named “My Vintage Romance”. Awesome.

We decided to try the German place first. We got a beer, ironically Tsingdao. Sidenote. Tsingdao is pronounced the same way as the city, and not by coincidence. This is where the Tsingdao brewery is! Anyway, we also got a pretzel, some french fries and some sausage (Tristan, not us). It was delish. Then we moved over to Cheers and had some wine. Then we ordered a quesadilla from Deja Vu, the Western restaurant next door. Real cheese. Mmmmmmmmmm. Enough said.

We only had to walk across the street to get back to our hotel. Fabulous.

Adventures in China: Day 21

Day 21: Big Buddha

Today we went to see a giant Buddha statue!

Ok, so this title references a game you may or may not know. So excuse the inside joke if you are on the outside. So, the game “Big Booty” …. All I could think about was the words for this game, but instead of saying “big booty”, it was “big Buddha”. Awwwwwww big Buddha. Big Buddha, aww yeah. Big Buddha, big Buddha, big Buddha!

Ok, done. Moving on.

We rented a bus for the day, since 30 of us wanted to go. Phil stayed behind to rest. It was about an hour ride there, and you could start seeing the giant Buddha from miles away. It really was a ginormous Buddha!



See how big it is from this far away?

The place was very much a tourist attraction, so that meant lots of people and higher prices. Here’s our group for the day:



And here’s me with a monk.



The park was HUGE, so we bought tickets for the tram service.



Our first stop was a giant fountain. It had a rotating Buddha on top, a water show, music, and tons of people. This was a show that happened only at certain times, so we were lucky to get there while it was happening! Click here to watch:


There was also this amazing wall mural off the side of this area.



We were getting closer to the giant Buddha!



Next stop was actually the Buddha. It was something like 88 meters high. That’s really high.


We had to climb all those stairs! It reminded me of Montmarte in Paris.



So his hands are significant in this pose. The top hand (right hand) means “I will help you with your problems” (roughly translated), and the bottom left hand is like a blessing of peace being offered to you.




We could climb even higher. The view was amazing.



On the way up and down the Buddha statue, you had to walk through a museum, of sorts. It had some neat statues in there as well.



We boarded the tram again to go to yet another place. Here is what the little tram stops look like.



Well, our next stop was a beautiful place. It was a very large building with various things inside. The first part was a temple of sorts, though. But very different from any other temple we’ve seen.



We had to put on slipper covers over our shoes when we got it. It was exquisite inside!


That Buddha is real gold, folks. Solid gold.


Back on the tram to head back to the bus.



On our way back, we made a brief stop at this famous, large lake. Large is not accurate.


More like an ocean-sized lake. It just went on and on forever! We stayed just long enough to get some fun pictures.



And then we went back to the hotel for lunch and rest before the show.

I took a few more night shots of the river from a courtyard at the top of the theater. Just playing around with the different manual settings.





We went back to the hotel, ate dinner, packed up our stuff. Normal stuff. We were going to go back to that bar for more Delirium Nocturnum, but we ended up just staying in.

Adventures in China: Day 20

Day 20: Wuxi

Today was another loooong day. We again traveled and had a show in the same day. Yuck. Phil left at 8am with the tech crew, and I left with everyone else at 10am. It was only a 1.5 hour bus ride though.

(these were taken from the bus window fyi)

We stayed at the Canal Grand Hotel. Sounds so fancy! It was ok. We got kinda spoiled in Wenzhou, so everything is kind of a disappointment now ;) But, much better than our last place.

And here’s our room. Sometimes we end up with a double instead of a single. Shrug.

It was a bit on the small side, especially the bathroom. But hey, it was clean and mold free! Here’s the view from our room.


We ate lunch, settled in, and then went for an exploratory walk. There wasn’t much on our street, except bars (great for later that night!). That name of the street was actually “Bar Street”. Lolz. So I just ended up taking a nap.

This city is on a river, and the theater is on the water front. We crossed over a bridge to get there, and the mammoth theater is very visible.

And here are pics from when I got there.

The show went on. I think I did my yoga and then read in the dressing room until showtime. Then I just helped out as usual. I kind of have a routine now. There are certain costume changes I help with. There are certain dances I try to do backstage, which makes the dancers laugh. I help hang up costumes after they are worn. I make faces at the dancers. I cheer for them. It’s fun. They’ve named me “Stage Mom”, which is cool except it makes me sound old. But they are the sweetest girls and guys, and really fun to be around.

After the show, we went outside to load the bus, and the theater is all lit up!

I heard this one is supposed to be a butterfly. The river is all lit up too!

One of the prettiest theaters at night, in my opinion.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, we were staying on Bar Street. So after dinner … duh. Rebecca, Kelli (the two singers), Phil and I headed out a little before the main group. We scoped out the choices, and finally settled on one that had the best vibe, and also was where the locals were hanging out (always a good sign!). Boy, did we choose right! They had a fantastic selection of beer, including …


Also, Hoegaarden on tap. A HUGE glass of it. For 50 yuan.

We were happy campers.

About 45 minutes later the rest of the group showed up, plus some locals.

We had a great time! It had been a long day, but also a hard show for Phil sound-wise. There were a lot of things that happened that were out of his control. Like the cello just not coming through the house the whole first half (no fault of his). Like the stage literally bouncing from the dancers, causing the platforms that the band was set up on to bounce. And also the grand piano was bouncing. Everyone just needed a little carefree silliness after that show :)


Adventures in China: Day 19

Day 19: Jianjiagang

Today, we travel to the city of Jianjiagang (jon gee uh gong), and have a show in the same day. Can we say ugh? Ugh. For the tech crew, that meant leaving early in a van. I went with since it would be roomier than the bus. It was only a 2 hour drive. I looked out the window while at a red light and saw a bunch of guys on scooters. It was like a Harley gang, but … with scooters. I took a pic. There are just as many of these driving around as there are cars.


We arrive at the theater.


The crew starts setting up. Here is the house.


I help for a little bit, but then go exploring in the lobby.


And then explore outside. It was different than the previous ones.


I eat lunch with them, and then I take a taxi to the hotel. The rest of the group had already arrived and checked in. We were staying at the Magnotel. Weird name.


I checked in. Here is the lovely view from our room (/sarcasm).

There was nothing impressive about this hotel. At all.

Then I went walking around for a few hours. We were only staying in this city for the day, so this was my only time to explore. There was a shopping street close by so that was at least nice place to walk around.


The show went on that night, we came back, ate dinner (which was not very good), and tried to sleep. The beds were horribly hard, and construction noise and cars blaring their horns kept waking us up all night. Very frustrating, especially with another crazy day ahead of us tomorrow. And that was Jianjiagang.